A review of Ellery Lloyd’s debut novel, People Like Her, a clever and pacey thriller with hints of Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky.
The Kierkegaardian concept of ressentiment is at the heart of Ellery Lloyd’s debut novel, People Like Her. The bones of the story are strong, and there is a sense of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. Much to my delight, there are even examples of modern Homeric cataloguing.
Emmy—one of the three narrative voices in the text—plays her life out on social media. She is an ‘Insta-mum’ and has a million followers. She regularly displays photos of herself and her family on Instagram. However, once her husband Dan has narrated chapter two, the reader discovers that Emmy’s life has a warped sense of reality. Dan’s version of events is very different to hers. She is an unreliable narrator, whereas Dan appears to be reliable. Having said that, Dan’s version may also be questionable as he is oblivious to his own unconscious Kierkegaard ressentiment towards his wife; although, he recognises the concept in her followers.
A bent on existentialism bubbles beneath the surface of Emmy’s flawlessly crafted Instagram world. Although Emmy comes across as a selfish and unlikeable character, the reader can’t help but pity her. The Truman Show facade begins to crumble when someone else notices that Emmy isn’t giving honest advice to her followers.
The third narrator—the follower— bears similarities to the underground man in Dostoevsky’s Notes From the Underground. In similar fashion to underground man, this narrator goes unnoticed and remains nameless through most of the story, which adds to the rising tension.
I read a lot in this genre, so I usually have an idea of where a story is going; however, in People Like Her, the plot twists and turns, and flips the perceived outcome on its head. The aftershocks are already rippling through my social media usage.